Workshop on vulnerable children in domestic violence cases

22 Feb 2016 22:00pm
WINDHOEK, 22 FEB (NAMPA) – Cases involving young and vulnerable children should be trialled within eight months of incidents while they are fresh in the minds of victims, says Prosecutor-General (PG), Martha Imalwa.
Opening a five-day Child Witness Specialised Training Workshop here on Monday, Imalwa said it is not easy for vulnerable witnesses who have to give testimonies in court, as it traumatises some victims or witnesses, especially those in cases of rape and murder.
In some cases, she noted, children who fell victim to sexual violation at the tender age of five, only testified in court three to four years after the incident occurred; or even at the age of 15.
Imalwa said more than 70 per cent of rape cases involved young and vulnerable children.
She said that in dealing with young witnesses, a multi-sectoral approach is needed whereby prosecutors, investigators, social workers and doctors attend to victims or witnesses immediately after an incident occurred, and should attend to such problems without asking who will pay them their overtime.
“You should sacrifice knowledge of capabilities without favour in society,” said the PG.
Speaking at the same event, Prime Minister (PM) Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said justice for children goes beyond juvenile justice, as it includes all children going through the justice system for whatever reason, be it as victims, witnesses to crime or offenders.
“It specifically aims at ensuring full application of international norms and standards for all children who come into contact with the justice system,” she said.
The premier noted that ‘domestic violence’ is a bitterly ironic term as the home normally conjures up images of a safe haven from the dangers of the outside world. She said that for many women and children, home is the place where they are most at risk, while internationally, domestic violence has come to be recognised as a serious human rights violation.
“The immediate trauma resulting from children witnessing violence needs our attention and we are also aware of lasting scars left in these children.
“Children exposed to domestic violence while growing up continue to face a range of possible effects, including trouble with schoolwork, limited social skills, depression, anxiety and other psychological problems,” said the PM.
She said these children are at a greater risk of substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and delinquent behaviour.
In terms of public policies and laws on child protection, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said good progress has been made, as Namibia has taken a proactive approach in dealing with issues involving children.
Since independence, Namibia has ratified a number of international instruments dealing with matters involving children, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
“Should a child be required to testify in court, the entire trauma will have to be recounted. To make the witnessing less distressing will require particular procedures and the experts at this workshop who will deal specifically with the procedures,” she said.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila noted that the capacity building initiative will be valuable in contributing to the professional skills of not just the judiciary, prosecution and law enforcement professionals, but also of medical officers and social welfare officers in investigating, prosecuting, adjudicating and supporting children involved in violent crimes.
The workshop is also attended by representatives from the Office of the Attorney-General, the Office of the PM, prosecutors and doctors.